The HSR bus strike will have a lingering impact on our community
For students and the larger Hamilton community, the HSR bus strike has created devastating financial and social losses that will be difficult to recover from
On Thursday, Nov. 9, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 officially began a legal service strike, suspending all HSR bus services indefinitely.
In Hamilton, about four out of 10 residents rely on HSR bus services daily. Students, seniors, families, low-income households, individuals with disabilities as well as others experienced the challenges of travelling in the city without access to public busses.
For students, especially those living further from campus, commuting to classes this past week became increasingly difficult. Not everyone was able to secure access to a vehicle or carpool with friends. And students, who are already pressed for time and money, couldn't necessarily afford to solely use other modes of transportation such as taxis or rideshare services that charge a rather significant fee per ride. Cycling and walking were also not viable options for students depending on the distance, weather, and accessibility.
However, for Hamilton residents, the HSR bus strike means more than just a lack of transportation. The bus strike means being unable to meet commitments such as classes, work, doctor’s appointments, visiting family and friends, buying groceries or medications and other essential or meaningful activities.
The consequences of the HSR bus strike run deep, hurting the most vulnerable communities in our city. More importantly, the challenges brought upon by the strike will persist, despite the end of the strike.
Students, for one, had to go to great lengths to make it to class, losing more time and money in the process. Those who had no accessible means of getting to campus were forced to fall behind in classes and miss out on work as well as other commitments. While these losses can’t easily be measured in dollars, absence from classes can lead to a decline in academic performance.
Balancing several classes together is a challenge, and having to catch up on days of missed classes only exacerbates the stress and anxiety students experience. With midterm season in full swing and exams approaching, student wellness is already at risk. However, the lack of certainty around getting to campus this past week inevitably cost some students their grades and well-being.
Beyond the student population, the HSR bus strike has had ramifications for many other Hamiltonians. For instance, individuals from low-income households, who work days on end and survive paycheck-to-paycheck simply could not afford to miss hours of work. Instead, they were left to choose between taking hours-long walks in the cold weather in order to put food on the table for their families or losing their jobs, possibly pushing some into poverty.
Individuals who are unable to walk long distances, such as seniors or individuals with chronic conditions or disabilities, had to spend their savings on cabs or Ubers, instead of their rent, food, or other necessities. And for those living on a fixed income, visiting loved ones, attending important medical appointments that were booked months in advance and accessing food banks or purchasing groceries, has been impossible.
Students and other community members were forced to make difficult choices in light of the strike and the consequences are clear – the labour disruption will leave a dent in their wallets and well-being.
With all the commuting chaos and challenges, we need to recognize the fact that the thousands of individuals using the bussing system actually rely on these services. They don't take multiple buses to get to their destinations for the sake of it. They catch bus after bus because they have to, because bussing is their only option.
The bottom line is even though the strike is over, it isn't truly over – not for students, not for seniors and not for individuals with disabilities or low-income families. The strike has disproportionately hurt Hamilton’s most vulnerable, and these communities will be helplessly left to recover from the consequences long after services resume.